Wargames/D&D Campaign - Dynamic life of an NPC

Too often, NPCs have felt as stiff and unchanging as the little metal figures I parade across the table. I've caught hints over the years that this doesn't need to be so. Certainly, as players interact with NPCs, lives will change and things will happen. That doesn't seem to be a very dynamic world, though. 

In reading Tony Bath's "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" and reading some stories about how Professor MAR Barker ran things in his Tekumel campaign, I've found that they had charts and processes to check on the status of each NPC at a given timepoint - yearly, at the minimum. The story goes that Professor Barker would sit down with his 1,500 index cards monthly and figure out who lived and died. 

Well, I'm getting to the point where I am looking to inject that sort of dynamic view into my campaign world. I've got armies tilting against each other, I've got some pretty big movers and shakers doing their thing, I've got players trying to to survive and improve this world... it's time to make the NPCs come to life.

Delving into Bath's book, and getting pointed to the old AD&D Oriental Adventure XXXXXXX has given me a starting point. What's below is a first draft of what I'll use on a yearly and seasonal basis to figure out what happens to the NPCs. I'm slowly putting them into an Access database, and I'll use the programmability of Access to automate this process. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Comments, questions, "You're an idiot" are welcome... well... mostly welcome.

This comes from my "Wargames Campaign Rules" document

7.3 Yearly and Seasonal Events

Determine if death/illness occurs (Yearly, for each NPC):

Throw 1d6 -
If 1, throw again: 1-2 dead; 3-4 seriously ill (dies on 1-2 next year); 5-6 minor illness
If 1, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-2, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-3, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-4, throw again: 1-4 dead; 5-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)

Determine if there is a birth (Yearly, for each NPC):
If character is married: 20-30 years old: 4-6; 30-40 years old: 5-6
If character is unmarried: Throw 1d6, if 1, then test for childbirth (unfaithful!) - if characteristics indicate tendency for infidelity, raise the odds.
Throw 1d6, if 1-2, then throw 1d6: 1 - mother dies in childbirth, 2 - child dies, 3 - child is born ill (throw twice in year checks up to 10), 4 - child has disabilities (throw twice in year checks up to 5), 5 - child is twins, 6 - mother cannot have further children

Determine gender. Once baby reaches 10, then determine what they will be class-wise, at 15, roll stats.

Determine other events
Some events will set the tone for a large area, like a duchy, for the year. Seasonal events would be in line with the yearly event, if they conflict, reroll the seasonal. For an event that affects an NPC, determine if this is at the ducal level or lower.

Yearly - at a duchy level
Dice 1d6 - 3 or more indicates a yearly event. If an event is indicated, dice 3d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for the season and start/mid/end.
3. Noble/Royalty visits
4. Noble/Royalty assassination plot (at NPC/by NPC/within NPC area)
5. Astrological event
6. Natural disaster - Earthquake, Fire, Flood, Tsunami/Tornado,
7. Major Resource Famine/Bounty
8. Incursion, Major (at NPC/by NPC)
9. Incursion, Minor (at NPC/by NPC)
10. Major Conflict with another noble/royalty
11. Major Conflict within familiy
12. Plague
13. Political Plot - involved/target
14. Major Uprising/Dispute of population
15. Religious event
16. If married - divorce
17. If unmarried - marriage
18. Major Discovery

Seasonal - Nobility -
Event affects the NPC or the sphere of their influence/responsibility. These are events applicable for nobility/generals - those who control land/people.

Dice 2d6. 6 or more indicates a seasonal event. Dice 2d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for start/mid/end.
2. Accident
3. Bandit Activity
4. Need to Tax
5. Monster/Famous/Supernatural Encounter
6. Minor conflict with another noble
7. Criminal activity
8. Minor Uprising/Dispute of population
9. Minor family dispute
10. Minor religious event
11. Minor resource famine/bounty
12. Visit with another noble in duchy

Seasonal - Non-nobility
Dice 2d6. 9 or more indicates a seasonal event. Dice 2d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for start/mid/end.
2. Accident
3. Criminal activity
4. Encounter with famous
5. Encounter with monster
6. Conflict with someone
7. Minor family dispute
8. Minor religious event
9. Minor personal downfall/windfall
10. Encounter with supernatural
11. Conflict with government
12. Visit with/by someone from another location w/in duchy (1d6 1 - outside duchy)


  1. You may be an idiot (not for me to say), but this looks awesome to me! Especially once you get it automated. Then not only will the players be surprised at the fate of the NPCs, but you will be too!

    You can have endless fun dreaming up a narrative to explain what happened. You might even get a few adventure ideas out of it, too!

  2. @Will - that's what I'm planning on. Hell, just figuring out the families of some of the major NPCs has given me some surprises... such as the twin girls for Marshall Roehm, one of which is an aspiring 1st level fighter and probably going to be involved in the recent action that just took place.

  3. I wonder if the Pendragon non-adventuring phase would also be helpful? I never got that far in the rules, and it may be too targeted to nobility to be useful in the grittier world our characters reside within.

  4. @Alan - Pendragon and Tony Bath were similar in some regards, children and death. For other events, not so much.

  5. Nearly an 80% childhood mortality rate.

  6. @StuRat - I'd have to go through the math, but it's a 16% chance each year to have to throw for the possibility of death, then you have to roll the 1-2 on the second throw: 16% (roll 1 on a 1d6), then a 33% (roll 1-2 on a 1d6) = 5.28% chance of death.

    For major illness, that would cause the next year to be 33% (roll 1-2 on a 1d6), then a 33% (roll 1-2 on a 1d6) = 10.89% chance.

    Are you saying that the cumulative effect is an 80% childhood mortality rate? I don't know how to calculate that, how did you get that?

  7. 1/6th chance of illness.
    1/3rd chance of dying outright (so 3/9ths)
    1/3rd chance of a 1/3rd chance of dying the next year (1/3 x 1/3 = 1/9)

    So, 1/6 x (3/9 + 1/9) = 4/54 chance of dying or 50/54 of surviving = .9259 [92.59% chance of survival each year (counting next year illness deaths as this year)]

    For 20 years take .9259 ^ 20 (raised to the 20th power( or multiple .9259 times itself 20 times) gives an overall 21.45% chance of making it to 21. (Admittedly a small fraction (<2% of those die at 21 from a year 20 illness, but I think that still counts).

  8. @Stu Rat - gives me something to think about. I'm curious now if Tony ever considered that, or just didn't care, perhaps?

    In looking up typical mortality rates for children in medieval times, it seems the number goes from 30% to 50%.

  9. @Stu Rat - take a look at today's blog post, you inspired me to dig a bit more.


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